JAPAN rode on the heady plays of Kosuke Takeuchi and naturalized player JR Sakuragi as it pulled off a runaway 76-59 win over tough-fighting Hong Kong in the 27th Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship at the Mall of Asia Friday.
The 6-foot-9 Takeuchi scored six straight points to kick off Japan’s furious fourth quarter rampage, allowing the perennial East Asian powerhouse to book its first win in the tournament following a 74-75 nail-biting loss to Qatar in Thursday’s tournament opener.
“We played Hong Kong in the East Asia qualifying tournament but we didn’t have much information on player nos. 10 (Takeuchi) and 13 (Naoto Tsuji). But it’s good we played well in the fourth because we didn’t have good defense in (the) first half,” said Japanese coach Suzuki Kimikazu, whose team finished the first round preliminary with an even 1-1 record in Group B.
Hong Kong national coach Kwong Wai Chung, on the other hand, said the team was happy with the way it stayed close to Japan for three quarters of the game.
Unfortunately, it failed to sustain its intensity and allowed the Japanese to scrape out with the victory.
Tsuji Naoto led the Japanese with 17 points spiked with four three-pointers.
Big men Takeuchi added 12 and seven boards, while Sakuragi chipped in 10 and 12 rebounds as the duo dominated the paint.
“The game was good for us. Japan is a strong team because they took advantage of their height and shooting,” said Hong Kong’s top gunner Wong Chun Wai, who led all scorers with 23 points.
Japan (Japan 76) -- Tsuji 17, Takeuchi 12, Kanamaru 10, Sakuragi 6, Tanaka 6, Hiejima 6, Ota 4, Watanabe 4, Ichioka 3, Sakurai 2, Kurihara 2, Matsui 0.
Hong Kong (59) -- Wong 23, Reid 10, Li 9, Chan 8, Chan Siu 5, Szeto 2, Lau 2, Poon 0, Lam 0.
Quarterscores: 25-24; 41-40; 64-53; 76-59.